Category Archives: Commercial Vessels


Fatigue leads to human error. Every transportation mode, aviation, trucking, railroads, and maritime, have laws and regulations dealing with how many hours of rest an individual must have before continuing with their job.  Scientific studies indicate that the human body needs 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to ensure that an individual is rested sufficiently to carry out their job. In the maritime industry, watches were developed to help address these issues long before science quantified these requirements.  However, today individuals on vessels typically have to fill out paperwork and file reports when they are not “on watch” – taking away from the hours in which they can sleep.

The International Maritime Organization developed standards that shipowners must comply with when scheduling their personnel.  The Japanese MOU just issued a study based on their enforcement of these IMO requirements.  Between September 1, 2014 and November 30, 2014 Japan conducted 6,392 inspections in which they had a questionnaire for the crew to examine hours of rest.  They found that there were 1,589 deficiencies where the crew did not comply with IMO requirements. Some of these may have been failure to keep track of the hours that mariners were working.  During that time 16 ships were detained because the violations were serious.

The Japanese press release stated “Analysis of the recorded deficiencies shows that most deficiencies relate to hours of rest not being recorded correctly in 997 cases (63%), vessel manning not in accordance with the minimum safe manning document 241(15%) and shipboard working arrangements 232 (15%).”

There are similar concerns about hours of rest in the U.S. domestic fleet. Section 8904(c) of title 46, United States Code, authorizes the Coast Guard to establish maximum hours of service on towing vessels. This provision was enacted in 2004 but the Coast Guard has not yet established those standards.

The Japan MOU press release on this study can be found at this link.


Panamanian flag-of-convenience ship detained in Oregon for numerous safety violations

On Saturday, the Coast Guard detained the Panamanian-flag ship IKAS SUDIP in Astoria, OR after the ship lost power twice due to problems with it fuel systems. The Coast Guard prohibited the entry of the vessel into U.S. waters until repairs were made in order to protect the safety and environment of the U.S.  Once in port, the Coast Guard conducted a thorough safety examination of the 10 year old ship  and found numerous safety violations including –

  • A failure to use engineering procedures required by U.S. and international law, which guide the vessel’s crew through fuel management and vessel propulsion requirements.
  • a lack of crew familiarity with emergency rescue drills.
  • deficient structural fire boundary doors designed to prevent the spread of a fire and inoperable lifesaving equipment.
  • severe corrosion was found throughout the vessel’s machinery piping systems posing a significant threat to the vessel and crew.

Capt. Dan Travers, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River Commanding Officer said “Eliminating substandard vessels from U.S. waters is critical to ensuring our waterways are protected.  Only after the vessel crew corrects its deficient safety management system and critical vessel equipment will we allow it to return to commercial service.”

The Coast Guard’s press release on this incident is at this link.

Don’t just rely on technology – look out the window

The Japan P&I Club Bulletin featured a guide titled “Bridge Watchkeeping and Collision Avoidance”  in which they discuss the proper use of radar aids (ARPA) and Automatic Information Systems (AIS) and over reliance on technology to prevent collisions.  Sometimes you just need to look out the window. The bulletin is at this link.

Enclosed Space Entry Drills – prevent deaths

It is not uncommon for crewmembers of large cargo ships to have to enter an enclosed space. Without proper equipment and training this can quickly turn deadly due to a possible lack of oxygen in the space. Tragedies have occurred where a fellow crewmember, while attempting to rescue someone else, also dies. In 2013, the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) required that, beginning January 1, 2015, all crewmembers that enter enclosed spaces must participate in closed entry drills at least every 2 months.

The London P& I Club publication Stop Loss recently published an article on this requirement at this link.

Fire Suppression System saves 34 foot commercial fishing vessel

The 34 foot commercial fishing vessel SEA NILE had a fire in the engine room at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and radioed the Coast Guard for assistance.  By the time the Coast Guard arrived, the onboard fire suppression system had extinguished the fire.  The Coast Guard then towed the vessel to port. The Coast Guard spokesman said “The vessel’s onboard equipment, along with the quick thinking of the fishermen helped ensure they were safe and that help was coming once the incident occurred. Without their preparedness, a situation like this could have turned deadly.” The Coast Guard’s news release is at this link.

MAIB Report: Injury on flag-of-convenience vessel from ineffective safety management

On April 9, 2014 the Panamanian-flag vessel NAGATO REEFER was conducting an abandoned ship drill in Southampton, UK. During the drill the lifeboat was released from its davit and it struck a crewman.

The investigation found “that the management of safety on board Nagato Reefer was ineffective, and there was evidence of a poor safety culture both on board and in the management of the company. Specific areas of concern included a breakdown in trust and communication among the crew, failure to conduct drills and essential maintenance, and the falsification of records.”

This report illustrates the multiple problems this ship had due to the failure by the owner, crew, and flag-state to adequately implement and effective safety management plan.  The complete report is at this link.



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